262 Professor Wigglesworth’s Inaugural Address

    [October 24 1722]

    Oratio Habita in Aula Academica Cantabrigi ensi

    A Reverendo Domino Edvardo Wigglesworth, 1722

    Orationem Superdictam Legerunt Dom.





    May it please Your Excellency and the Rest of the Honorable and Reverend Overseers together with the Reverend the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

    If I might have been allowed the Desires of my heart and my natural Bashfulness might have been indulged, my only part in this Days Solemnity would have been to receive the Trust Committed to me; with Silence and Humility, and a Dutiful and full purpose of Heart faithfully to endeavour the Performance of the Services hereafter expected from me. But since ’Tis required of me to say Something on this occasion, by those to whom I owe all possible Duty and Chearful Obedience, I shall therefore endeavour to comply with their Pleasure by saying so much as may seem needful, and yet I shall indulge my own inclination, by doing it in as few words as may be.

    There is no need that I should say any thing of the happy Occasion of our being assembled here this day: For You have already both seen and heard it; nor is it more necessary that I should go about to inform You to Whom We are beholden for it. I suppose none of Us are such strangers in our Jerusalem, as not to know the Man and something of the Character He deserves. And yet mere human Gratitude and then be sure Christian Piety wont suffer me to pass these things without observing the Amiable and Truly Extraordinary Example of True Christian Charity, which our Generous Benefactor, the Worthy Mr. Thomas Hollis has given to the World, in the Great and Good Things He has done to promote the interests of Learning and Religion in our Academy. Such an Example as (considering its Endearing and surprising Circumstances) perhaps the World has seldom ever seen before. That a Man from a Far Country, to Whom our Place and Name were hardly known, as soon as He had heard that the Fear of God was in this Place, and that our Charity and Good will to men, differing from us in the Lesser matters of the Law, was not altogether so contracted, as it is in too many other Places, and that many advantages enjoyed by Foreign Universities were still wanting to us; that such a Person (I say) though differing from us Himself in some points which have been too often the unhappy occasions of much unchristian animosity in the Christian Church, should yet set himself only upon hearing these things to seek our Welfare with unwearied Diligence, Consummate prudence, and a Flowing Stream of Liberality: This is what surely calls upon us to render most hearty Thanks, in the First place to our Heavenly Father Who hath inclined the Heart of His Servant to these Things, and then to our Earthly Benefactor, by Whose Kindness such Worthy Deeds are done unto us!

    May God give unto His Servant a Name better than of Sons and of Daughters even an Everlasting Name that shall not be cut off. And may His memory be rendered Dear and Honorable to the Latest Posterity, by the Continual Blessing of Heaven upon the Theological Exercises in particular which among His many other Good Deeds, He has taken such an early and generous and prudent care to found. A Great Argument indeed of a pious and Heavenly Disposition, that the Servant of God has made it His First Care to encourage and advantage our Studies in the Doctrine which is according to Godliness! In Comparison of Which the most useful and admired mere humane knowledge and Learning is as nothing, yea Less than Nothing and Vanity.

    And indeed what is there of any Considerable Value within the Reach of unassisted Humane Learning and Reason, which is not more clearly and fully taught us in the Word of God. For there is no precept of Catholick Truth Conducing to a Good Life, delivered either in Oeconomics, Ethics, Politicks, or Law but what is either expressly Revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures or by Genuine Consequence deducible from them. Well then might the Apostle tell us that the Scriptures are profitable for Doctrine for Reproof, for Correction, for Instruction in Righteousness; that the man of God might be perfect thoroughly furnished unto all Good Works. This is the Business of the Doctrine of God our Savior, not to amuse our Heads with empty unprofitable speculations, but to instruct us thoroughly in those Divine Truths, which may kindle suitable Affections in our Souls unto Him, and may dispose our Hearts to the Chearful practice of all those Duties which both by their own Natural Efficacy, and by the Gracious Promise of God, conduce to the Happiness both of our selves and others here and to raise us to Glory, Honor and Immortality hereafter.

    How Glorious then but withal, how great and difficult is the Work of them, to Whom a Dispensation of the Gospel of our Savior is committed! And what ought to be the accomplishments, the Sollicitude, the Diligence and Fidelity of Him, from Whom it is expected that He train up others for the Work of the Ministry, to preach the unsearchable Riches of Christ! The Things of God are very deep; Great are the Misteries of Godliness! not a Few Things in the Scriptures are hard to be understood, and wrested by the Unlearned and Unstable to their own destruction. The Doubtful are to be directed how to keep Consciences void of offence, and Gainsayers must be convinced by Sound Doctrine and the Mouths of unruly vain Talkers and Deceivers must be stop’d. But who is sufficient for these Things Himself? and much more Who such a Master in Israel as to be able to form the minds of others, and instruct them so thoroughly in these Things, as to make them in all points Workmen that need not be ashamed? And Who is able to fire their Hearts with such a Zeale for God, and Compassion for the Souls of men as becomes those, Who are to take the Oversight of the Churches which Christ hath purchased with His own Blood.

    Now all this and much more is the Work which I am called to by the Providence of God, Who has been pleased to turn your Hearts upon me, not withstanding my unworthiness and insufficiency; at which my Heart trembleth and is moved out of its place. My Eyes are therefore unto God in the Heavens, Who ordaineth to Himself praise out of the mouths of Babes and sucklings, and encreaseth might to them that have no strength, and hath said, if any man lack Wisdom, let him ask of God and it shall be given him. That He would give me understanding in all Things, opening mine Eyes to behold the Wondrous Things of His Law and Gospel and filling me with the Knowledge of His will in all Wisdom and spiritual understanding; That He would give me the Tongue of the Learned, enabling me to divide the Word of Truth aright, in Doctrine, shewing Uncorruptness, Gravity, Sincerity and sound speech which cannot be condemned; and that He would strengthen me both in Body and Mind to discharge the Whole Trust reposed in me so as that He Himself may be glorified, and the Youth committed to my Instruction may increase Daily in Wisdom and Learning and the Fear of the Lord, and our Generous Benefactor may have the pleasure and satisfaction of seeing the Design of His pious and charitable Institution answered.

    And now what remains but that I earnestly intreat and beseech You my Honored Patrons and Reverend Fathers, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s Sake and for the Love of the Youth Devoted to His service, to strive together with me in Your Prayers to God for me; and not to press upon me, at my first entrance on this Work harder than my Strength will bear: But to consider not only the Greatness, but the Novelty of the Work among Us; the Youth of him who undertakes it, and that He hath spent atmost Ten Years of the little time he hath lived in the World in studies very foreign to Divinity. You will therefore give me Leave to hope for all that indulgence, Humanity and Forbearance which these Considerations plead for.

    As for myself, so long as I shall continue in this Station (and that will be (God willing) either till You have chosen You out a more sufficient person or till Providence shall remove me to some other Work more suitable to my own Weakness) I can only promise Truthfulness and Diligent Application as far as my Health will allow and sincere endeavours to promote peace, Truth and Holiness.

    Hollis-Leverett mss, Houghton Library. The Latin version (not copied here) is on the right-hand side of the page, the English on the left.